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Embassy of Cuba in New Zealand Newsletter - 1st March 2015

Embassy of Cuba in New Zealand

No.8 1st March 2015
(Download as a .pdf file)


The historic meetings between the US and Cuba continue and we bring you news in detail of proceedings from both sides with encouragement from former chief of the US interest section in Wayne Smith who said he was hoping for a ‘direct dialogue,’ with old hostilities being set aside. Under Diplomacy, Raúl meets Kofi Annan, and Cuban ambassador to the UN Rodolfo Reyes has warned the Security Council that it is not enough to commit to altruistic principles and purposes in the UN Charter, if some of the member states do not respect them; while United Arab Emirates and Cuba are seeking closer ties. The Cuban Five are now also ‘Heroes of the Republic’ and we include Gerardo Hernández Nordelo’s stirring speech ‘We have done our duty’ in full.

We cover proceedings of the tenth plenum of the central committee of the Communist Party of Cuba including development of the new model of functioning of local assemblies of ‘People’s Power.’

In Cubans Abroad we read that the New Zealand Cuban Festival takes place next week in Rotorua and the Buena Vista Social Club are to release a new album at the New Plymouth Womad festival, coming soon, and also two Rolling Stones guitarists are joining the Dead Daisies for a Cuban rock concert. In Medicine Cuba gets praise from the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management for its contribution to the fight agains ebola; its brigade cured 260 people with the condition in Sierra Leone; Havana’s International Centre for Neurological Restoration has treated 120,000 patients of 93 countries, including Cuba, since 1989; and 540 doctors are going home to Pakistan after qualifying in Cuba.

Finally we report that 1,650 aficionados from 60 countries and 200 journalists from 25 nations, interested in unraveling the benefits and peculiarities of hand-made Premium Cuban cigars, are attending this week’s Cigar Festival.

In this issue
- The second round begins…
- Cuba, US have many opportunities to cooperate
- Statement by Roberta S Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs
- Former US diplomat: ‘Leave hostilities behind’
- Raul and Kofi Annan get together
- Cuba calls to eradicate threats to world peace
- Strengthening links with UAE
- ‘The Cuban Five’ now ‘Heroes of the Republic’
- PCC Central Committee holds Tenth Plenum
- Record temperature low in February
- Rolling Stones and Superband — two Cuban concerts
- New Zealand Cuban Festival
- Buena Vista Social Club: a New Zealand album
- European Commission praises Cuba’s contribution to fighting the ebola virus
- Sierra Leone: 260 ebola sufferers cured
- CIREN, of Havana, has treated 120,000 patients from over 93 nations
- Pakistani physicians graduate from Cuban medical schools
- Cigar Festival visitors see Cuba’s cigar factories


The second round begins…

A second round of talks has taken place this week between the delegations of Cuba and the United States on the process of resuming diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies — as announced by presidents Raúl Castro Ruz and Barack Obama in December.

The Cuban delegation was headed by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director general of the US division at the ministry of foreign affairs; and the US delegation was headed by Roberta S. Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs. The meeting took place in a professional, respectful and constructive environment.

The Cuban representatives reiterated the importance of solving a series of issues to allow for the creation of the appropriate context to resume diplomatic relations and open embassies in both capitals, in particular, Cuba’s removal from the list of “states (which) sponsor international terrorism” and the provision of financial services to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington which, for more than one year, has been unable to find a bank willing to handle its financial transactions due to the blockade laws and Cuba’s designation as a country that sponsors international terrorism.

Likewise, the Cuban delegation insisted on the need to ensure compliance with the principles of international law and the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, which should be the basis of future diplomatic relations and the work of the respective embassies. Special emphasis was placed on the need to observe the norms governing the functions of diplomatic missions, the behaviour of diplomatic staff, compliance with national laws and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.

Both delegations worked through the details of the visits and bilateral technical meetings to take place in the next few weeks on issues such as trafficking in persons, civil aviation, telecommunications, human rights, marine protected areas, prevention of migration fraud and changes in the regulations modifying the implementation of the blockade.

During the exchange, the Cuban delegation ratified its willingness to continue the dialogue and make progress in the relations between Cuba and the United States based on respect, sovereign equality and reciprocity.


Cuba, US have many opportunities to cooperate

Cuba and the United States can profit mutually from basic economics and future developments, Cuban representative Josefina Vidal has told media.

According to Cuba’s director general for the United States, the geographic proximity and the vision — in some issues linked to national security — encourage the parties to go forward.

In this second round of talks to reestablish diplomatic links, Vidal told media that science, services, security, migration issues, information and technology were areas with potential.

“We can work together in order to solve all that is necessary to resume relations and open embassies — the focus of the talks — and at the same time move forward on aspects of mutual interest,” she said.

There were topics where Cuba had experience like the migration issue, postal mail, traffic of persons and prevention and response to offshore oil spills, as well as new ones like scientific exchange on protected marine areas, nautical charts and hydrography, telecommunications, computer technologies and human rights.

On drug trafficking, a worldwide scourge, she thought that ideas had been discussed and there were precedents to work case by case that created an opportunity to start more formal talks on those issues.

Cuba originally offered cooperation to the US at the beginning of the century to set up an agreement to fight drug trafficking, an initiative reiterated five years ago without results, although the situation could now change.

“We believe it is possible to widen the spectrum of technical and official talks, to set up cooperative plans on the part of both countries,” she said.

Concluding the day’s meetings assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, Roberta Jacobson and Vidal told media of the start of technical meetings between Havana and Washington.

Next week Cuban delegations would discuss issues linked to civil aviation and traffic of persons in the US.

Also in March, US ambassador Daniel Sepulveda would visit Cuba to work with the hosting government in issues of communication and information, she added.

The combat against migration fraud, the protection of marine areas and human rights — the latter an issue stressed by Cuba — will also be included in the agenda of the technical meetings.


Statement by Roberta S Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs

“US and Cuban officials met in Washington to discuss the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. The foreign ministry’s director general for US affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro led the Cuban delegation and I led the delegation for the United States. We view re-establishing diplomatic relations and re-opening embassies as critical early steps in the longer-term process of normalizing relations more than a half century after we severed diplomatic relations.

“Today was productive and encouraging. In open, honest, and sometimes challenging — yet always respectful — conversation, we addressed the requirements of each side and the differences we identified in our first discussion in Havana a month ago, and we made meaningful progress toward resolving them. While cognizant that serious disagreements between our governments remain, I am pleased to report that today we saw the type of constructive exchange that advances us toward a more productive diplomatic relationship.

“This spirit of exchange is also evident in the events of the coming weeks. Next week, Cuba will send two delegations for separate consultations on trafficking in persons and civil aviation. Next month, a delegation led by deputy assistant secretary of state and US coordinator for international communications and information policy ambassador Danny Sepulveda will travel to Havana to work with the Cuban government on increasing its capacity for greater internet connectivity to support better access to information by the Cuban people. Also in March, an inter-agency delegation will travel to Cuba to exchange ideas and information about recent U.S. regulatory changes. We agreed to meet at the end of March to discuss the structure of our human rights dialogue.

“Without ignoring challenges that remain, we are committed to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, which will allow us to more effectively represent US interests and increase engagement with the Cuban people. Today’s discussion was an important step in that direction. I look forward to continuing my discussions with director General Vidal.”


Former US diplomat: ‘Leave hostilities behind’


Former chief of the US interest section in Cuba Wayne Smith said today he hopes his country would hold a direct dialogue with the island to discuss differences, without going back to the hostilities from the past.

"I hope we will not go back to the past, and thank God we are now in the right path,” he told media regarding the second round of Cuba-US negotiations.

“The United States should change its position, which is rejected by the region and the world, as being ‘counterproductive and stupid.’

“In this respect we are isolated in the hemisphere and the world and no one supports our position,” he said.

Smith, who held the interest section role from 1979 to 1982, criticized sectors opposing the bilateral negotiations, specifically the Republican Party.

“Things have changed, all countries in the hemisphere are in favour of the relations,’ he said in a meeting with Cuban journalists covering the talks this week, aimed at re-establishing relations and opening embassies in both capitals.

"I have been waiting for a long time for this moment of openness. Now we should go step by step and I would like to be in Havana when the US Embassy in inaugurated” he said.

According to Smith, Washington must immediately remove Cuba form the list of terrorist states, as the first action to improve relations.


Raul and Kofi Annan get together

Army general Raul Castro, president of the councils of state and ministers, has received Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations and president of the foundation named after him, who is on a visit to Cuba.

During the cordial meeting this week issues on the international agenda were tackled, particularly the peace process of Colombia. Kofi Annan expressed his acknowledgement of the role of Cuba as venue and the guarantor of talks held in Havana. Raul reiterated that Cuba will continue contributing in every aspect possible to the achievement of the end of the conflict and of peace for that nation.

Also present at the meeting was Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez.


Cuba calls to eradicate threats to world peace


Cuba called today at the Security Council for the United Nations to eradicate threats to peace in the world.

In an open discussion of the 15-member authority, which was devoted to world peace keeping, Cuban ambassador to the UN Rodolfo Reyes warned that it was not enough to commit to altruistic principles and purposes in the UN Charter, if some of the member states did not respect them.

Glaring violations such as interference in the internal affairs of other countries, aiming at hegemonic domination, attacks and wars for the control of natural resources, constitute serious attacks to the common wishes, he said in forum which was led by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, presiding over the council this month in Beijing.

Unfair and exclusive international order, inequality caused by neoliberal capitalist globalization, discrimination and violation of the right to self-determination also threatened peaceful coexistence.

Reyes wanted to see a planet where solidarity, cooperation, assistance and joint efforts to eradicate poverty, unemployment, hunger and inequality, as well as the causes that originate them, rule.

The ambassador was also in favour of a peaceful solution to international disputes, and the sovereignty and political independence of the countries.

He highlighted the need for the Security Council members to be the first to give priority to peaceful solutions and exert a decisive, effective and clear stance against war as a strategic option.

To Cuba, he said, any discussion about keeping world peace had to include total elimination of nuclear weapons, which put in danger the survival of humankind.

The UN Security Council discussion was held in the context of the 70th anniversary of the UN Charter and the defeat of fascism.


Strengthening links with UAE


United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Cuba have expressed willingness to take concrete and immediate steps to strengthen and expand bilateral relations in various fields, as Cuba’s Enrique Enriquez, based in Abu Dhabi, met vice-minister of the United Arab Emirates for political affairs, Ahmed Al Jarman in Riyadh.

Cuba and the UAE, a federation made up of seven small Gulf emirates, established diplomatic relations in 2002.


‘The Cuban Five’ now ‘Heroes of the Republic’


Cuban president Raúl Castro has officiated at the ceremony of awarding the titles of ‘Heroes of the Republic of Cuba’ to the ‘Cuban Five’ now all finally released after years of unjust imprisonment in United States

The medals was awarded by Parliament to the men based on a special section of the December 2001 legislation.

‘We have done our duty’ — remarks by Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, during the commemoration of the 120th anniversary of Cuba’s War of Independence, and the decoration of the Cuban Five, in Havana’s Convention Centre, February 24, 2015 — “Year 57 of the Revolution”

“Dear compañero army general Raúl Castro Ruz, president of the councils of state and ministers; compañeras and compañeros:

“Honouring the Cuban men and women who on a day such as this, 120 years ago, decided to return to arms to struggle for the homeland’s independence, is the best way to accept the “Hero of the Republic” title, which has generously been awarded to five Cubans of these times whose achievement was only that of having fulfilled our duty.

“José Martí, the soul of that national uprising of February 24, 1895, stated that the ability to be a hero is measured by the respect shown those who have been heroes. Thus, on a day such as this, our first thought is one of gratitude and loyalty to those who throughout history, with their sacrifice, have made possible that we live in a socialist, revolutionary, victorious Cuba, conscious that it is up to our generation, and those which are to come, to defend the continuity of this work, the dreams and ideals of our liberators.

“The first thoughts of the Five today must be for a man whose leadership and strategic vision were decisive to the battle which led to our freedom, and who with his example instilled in us a spirit of struggle, resistance and sacrifice. And who taught us that the word surrender does not exist in the dictionary of a revolutionary, and who, very early on, assured all Cubans that the Five would return to the homeland. Comandante en Jefe: This distinction which we proudly receive today is also yours.

“To our army general Raúl Castro, who did not rest until what Fidel had promised was accomplished, to all the men and women who already wear this honourable star on their chests, and were always an example to the Five, we say: This distinction is also yours. (Applause)

“To the Cuban people who made the cause of the Five their own, and still today encourage us with their support and affection; to the leadership of our country’s party and government; to the mass organizations, institutions, attorneys, religious bodies, figures and governments from other countries which stood in solidarity with our cause: This distinction is also yours.

“We also thank the sisters and brothers throughout the entire world who struggled shoulder to shoulder with us, over 16 years of legal and political battles, and say: This distinction is also yours.

“To our families, who struggled, suffered, and resisted with firmness for so many years, and to all of the persons who deserve to see this day but are no longer among us: This distinction is also yours.

“To the unknown heroes and heroines who will never be able to receive a public tribute such as this, but who have dedicated, dedicate, and will dedicate tomorrow, their lives to the defence of the country from anonymous trenches: Know, wherever you may be, that this distinction is also yours.

“This honour we receive today is, at the same time, a summons which demands that we rise to the occasion to meet the new challenges which the Revolution faces. More than a few times since our return, compatriots have approached us to say that they would have liked to have had the opportunity the Five had to protect our people from aggression. To them, and to all Cuban patriots, we say that our mission has not ended, and that they can join in.

“The updating of our economic model in an effort to achieve a more efficient, prosperous and sustainable socialism, as well as the process of reestablishing relations with the United States, create a conjuncture for change, which demands that all of us act with intelligence, professionalism, commitment and conviction, to identify and confront the challenges and new perils which are coming.

“There are, and will be, many ways to defend Cuba, and Cuba will always need loyal sons and daughters to protect her. It is encouraging to us to know that in the heart of this revolutionary people there are many “Fives” willing to sacrifice all for their homeland.

“With Ramón, René, Fernando and Antonio, we accept with pride and gratitude this great honour which the homeland confers upon us. The homeland can count on these five soldiers who today, before our people, reaffirm our commitment to serve you until our final days, and to always be loyal to the ideas of Martí, of Che, of Fidel and of Raúl. Thank you very much.”


PCC Central Committee holds Tenth Plenum

The Tenth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, presided over by General Raúl Castro Ruz, has approved the preparation of a variety of activities to be implemented in the period 2015-2018, fulfilling various agreements ratified during the Sixth PCC Congress.

The new programme includes the Seventh PCC Congress; the perfecting of the country’s political administration division; development of the new model of functioning of local assemblies of ‘People’s Power,’ currently underway in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque; as well as the election process.

The Seventh PCC Congress will be held in April 2016. Thus, from now through April 2015, municipal and provincial assemblies will be held; the preparation of cadres and militants will be carried out; in addition to popular consultation, and the processing and approval of final documents.

The main objective of perfecting the political administrative division is to strengthen the role of the municipality as a key element in the country’s territorial government management system, with the necessary autonomy to effectively carry out its functions, supported by a solid economic base.

Similarly, the process of expanding the implementation of the new model for local assemblies of ‘People’s Power’ will be carried out simultaneously with studies and the establishment of the new political administrative division.

Partial elections have been scheduled to take place in April, 2015, in addition to the enactment of the new electoral law, and the subsequent holding of general elections.

Highlighted during the Tenth Plenary Session was the need to work intensively and systematically in the drafting, conciliation and approval of documents which will be analyzed in the Seventh PCC Congress; the important legislative work the National Assembly will have in the coming years; and the political, ideological and organizational efforts to be realized, given the political importance of all these processes.

Finally, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, a member of the party political bureau and minister of foreign relations, offered information about the current state of relations between Cuba and the United States.


Record temperature low in February


The Cuban Institute of Meteorology reported that a record early morning one degree Celsius in the town of Union Reyes, in western Matanzas province, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Cuba for the month of February.

It was due to the influence of a very dry mass of cold arctic air, in combination with low clouds in the interior of the western and central regions, which encouraged nocturnal radiation causing again another remarkably cold dawn in parts of the interior of much of the country

There were several areas with lower than 10 degs C in Cuba’s western provinces. In the rest of the country the minimum temperatures were between 11 and 15 degrees Celsius, higher in coastal areas.

The previous record in Union de Reyes was set on February 18, 1996, and it was 2.5 degrees. The absolute record in this town for any month of the year was also one degree, on January 21, 1971.


Rolling Stones and Superband — two Cuban concerts

Darryl Jones and Bernard Fowler, two active members of the musical group Rolling Stones, will perform in Cuba along with the international rockers The Dead Daisies.

Jones, the legendary 'Munich' who has played bass with legends like Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, noted when he reached Havana that he feels honoured to be in Cuba, where he loves the music and culture having met Cuban music through the late Israel 'Cachao' Lopez.

“With The Rolling Stones, I have travelled a lot but I've never been to Cuba. I feel very lucky to know this country,” he told media


Buena Vista Social Club: a New Zealand album

Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, Cachaíto López, Guajiro Mirabal, Eliades Ochoa, Omara Portuondo & Compay Segundo, two weeks out from their first New Zealand appearance and almost two decades after the release of their original Grammy winning album have done it again.

The romance of the Buena Vista Social Club continues with ‘Lost and Found,’ a collection of previously unreleased tracks, some recorded at the first legendary sessions in Havana with producer Ry Cooder and others during the extraordinarily rich outpouring of music that followed.


New Zealand Cuban Festival

Every year it attracts some of the best Cuban dance instructors, performers and participants from around the world who come to share the sounds, rhythms and dances of the Afro-Cuban beat with Kiwis who love Cuban dance. Next week — Rotorua.



European Commission praises Cuba’s contribution to fighting the ebola virus


Christos Stylianides, European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management has told Cuban deputy public health minister Marcia Cobas, that the international community should thank the Caribbean islanders for putting all its experience at the service of people in need.

He also said he has the opportunity to appreciate the work the island's physicians are doing in many West African nations.

Cobas explained the procedures involved in carrying out the training of health specialists in all African countries where there are Cuban contributors, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean.

About 18,000 were trained to confront Ebola and other epidemiological emergencies, as a result of those training actions.

They discussed the holding of the international conference on the disease to be held in Brussels next week when discussion and decision-making on issues relating to the post-ebola stage and the actions to follow so there can be no resurgence or outbreaks from other deadly hemorrhagic fevers,.


Sierra Leone: 260 ebola sufferers cured


The Cuban medical brigade working in Sierra Leone has cured 260 persons infected by the ebola fever virus since October,.

"We managed to save the lives of 260 persons that arrived in serious condition, and now they’ve have continued with their lives," EFE Jorge Delgado, head of the Cuban brigade of physicians and nurses in Sierra Leone, told media. Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry and Liberia suffered the worst Ebola epidemic in history.

"Most patients arrived from five to seven days after contracting the disease and the virus was quite extended by then, but we managed to fight it," said Delgado from Geneva, where he is attending a conference for foreign medical teams that have fought against the epidemic.

Delgado coordinates the work of 164 health workers in four treatment centres in Sierra Leone, three near Free Town, the capital, and another one 120 kilometres distant.

That is at Port Loko, where Felix Baez is currently working. He is the Cuban physician that caught the disease and after being transferred and cured at the Geneva University Hospital and a period of rest in Cuba is back in the struggle against the virus in Sierra Leone.


CIREN, of Havana, has treated 120,000 patients from over 93 nations

Since its founding on February 26, 1989, by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, Havana’s International Centre for Neurological Restoration (CIREN) has received 120,000 patients of 93 countries, including Cuba.

Doctor Emilio Villa, president of the institution, told ACN that it has developed in an avant-garde position in the field of neurosciences.

It also has a programme of intensive multi-factor neurological restoration, which combines basic and clinical research, medical diagnostic treatment, rehabilitation and surgery; and promotes possibilities of recovery of patients.

In 2014, the centre offered medical assistance to 548 patients of 38 countries.

Villa specified that in spite of the difficult external and internal economic conditions and the limitations caused mainly by the US blockade of Cuba, CIREN maintains its image and prestige, which makes it possible to receive every year patients from new countries.

It also continues exchanges between professionals in the scientific and teaching spheres and maintains the transference of technology towards other nations, like Argentina and Spain, he said.


Pakistani physicians graduate from Cuban medical schools

More than 260 Pakistani physicians will graduate this week, Muhammad Rashid Usman, representative of the doctors-to-be at the University of Medical Sciences of Sancti Spiritus, told media.

They’re grateful to the Revolution and to Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, who, after the earthquake of 2005 that hit that Asian region causing over 73,000 deaths, offered 1,000 grants to study medicine in Cuba.

He recalled that the Cuban medical brigade was first to help that nation and the last to leave it.

More than 280 students from Pakistan will also graduate this week, from the University of Medical Sciences of Cienfuegos.

The Pakistanís at Sancti Spiritus come from all the provinces of that country, including the semi-autonomous tribal regions of the northwest and the Pakistani area of Cachemira, which lack medical personnel and where the health system is extremely fragile.


Cigar Festival visitors see Cuba’s cigar factories

Participants at the 17th Cigar Festival are visiting this week two of the largest cigar factories in Cuba — those of H.Upmann and La Corona, both in Havana.

Delegates need to see how Cubans make the cigars that later go to the international market. They can talk with operators in their workplace, and with the experienced heads of the different departments.

They got talks entitled "La fumada perfecta" "Los Habanos y las artes," and "Habanos Moments," on the relationship of Premium Cuban cigars accompanied by other products such as drinks and foods.

About 1,650 aficionados from more than 60 countries and more than 200 journalists from 25 nations, interested in unraveling the benefits and peculiarities of hand-made Premium Cuban cigars are attending the festival.

The Commercial Fair includes 67 stands on 800 square metres with special representation from Germany, Brazil, Italy, China, Spain, Canada and Panama.


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